The Sea Life - This quintet tells us they have been together for 5 years since their high school days. They are scattered among various colleges, so only get together at convenient times to play some music. Exams are over, so they make their way to this show tonight in front of a nice crowd. And how can you not like friends getting together and banging out some nice likable pop rock? They did not knock my socks off, but they were always enjoyable and a few times added some nice instrumental flourish, such as a shoegaze passage, or an intricate guitar dual. They varied the tempos and volumes nicely and had a good handle on their music throughout. The half-hour set breezed by as the club attendance continued to grow. Solid opening effort.
Western Affairs - This local trio lines up with a drums and a couple of keyboards. One of the guys moves over to guitar often, while the other handles the lead vocals. I am immediately a fan of their sound as the synthesizer cuts in like something out of early Tangerine Dream (coming to DC July 8th!). They have some computer backing, but are creating most of the sound themselves. The drums and synth combine to give this music a heft that separates them from dozens of lesser bands that may play nice dance beats, but have little to offer a listener like myself. These guys come from the post Animal Collective school and approach a Caribou-like sound as far as I can tell. But the retro sounds were great and I even heard some Tuxedomoon, which is a reference I love to make (and I am stunned at how little I hear of that band this century even when they reformed). The vocal work is good and really carries a couple of great melodic songs to high levels. They banged out a 32 minute set to a surprisingly large (over 60 folk-strong) and appreciative crowd. All the more impressive, as most or all of the band are X'ed on their hands. This was an EP release party and was festive and fun for the band, their friends, and us newcomers who were given a nice modern lush pop treat with just enough kick.
Quote of the Night: "Probably some kid." spoken after a fire alarm went off last Saturday at Aromatic. It was right as the first band was setting up and the whole ten stories of Artomatic was required to vacate. The firemen slowly walked up to check it out, as no hurry was needed as there was no sign of a problem. I assume everything got going and those that stayed likely had a great time. But I did not want to deal with crowds and really felt like a shower would be a nice thing at that point on the late, hot and sticky, Saturday night. Apologies to Screen Vinyl Image, Silo Halo, and Lorelei. But I've seen these great bands before and will again. You should, too.